Periodic Table of Elements

Periodic Table of ElementsOne of the great accomplishments of science has been the organizing of the elements into a form that allows us to use chemistry in amazing ways. In 1789 Antoine Lavoisier published a list of 33 elements grouping them into gases, metals, nonmetals, and earths. For the next 100 years, chemists searched for a better classification system. As the understanding of the design of atoms improved, scientists developed the periodic table of elements.

In 1869 Dmitri Mendeleev published the first table designed to show periodic changes in the properties of the elements. He was even able to predict the discovery of elements unknown at the time that would fill out his chart. As scientists further refined the periodic table of elements, it became even more useful. The horizontal rows are called periods, with metals on the left and nonmetals on the right. As you move from left to right in a period, the elements become less metallic. As you move from top to bottom, the columns, called groups, have similar properties. All of the elements in the last group on the right side of the chart are called noble gases, and they are chemically inactive. The next vertical column to the left of noble gases is called the halogens. They have similar chemical properties, such as the ability to support combustion.

We now know that the reason the periodic table of elements works is because of the electron configurations of the atoms. Chlorine, for example, has an electron configuration that leaves it one electron short of a stable chemical structure. It will exert tremendous force to get a single electron to make its electron configuration stable. Sodium has an extra electron that it would really like to get rid of to gain stability. Those two elements react so that sodium transfers its electron to chlorine and the compound that results is salt – NaCl. Every element in the vertical group with sodium will also react with chlorine in the same way, making lithium chloride, potassium chloride, rubidium chloride, etc.

We now have 118 confirmed elements in existence with 94 occurring naturally. Scientists have produced the remaining 24 elements in laboratories with nihonium, moscovium, tennessine, and oganesson being the most recent. It is difficult to think about atoms and understand how their electrons control their uses and not be impressed by the mind that created this incredibly complex system.

This is a very brief over simplification explanation of the periodic table of elements. It just begins to suggest how the electrons are organized into shells and subshells. The system allows different methods of bonding elements together, creating a diverse population of new compounds that make our lives not only comfortable but possible. For a better understanding, enroll in a basic chemistry class at your local community college or university. “The LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23 NIV).
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Virtual Reality Church

Virtual Reality ChurchThis past Easter Sunday, some church members walked into Jesus’ tomb, peered at the rock that sealed the entrance, and toured a replica of the cross where Jesus was crucified. They did this by using an internet connection and a VR (Virtual Reality) headset. They are members of VR Church, a virtual reality church.

The VR Church claims to be one of the first fully computer-generated religious institutions. Having roughly 150 members at present, the church uses the social media platform Altspace VR and is the product of D.J. Sota. The VR Church not only conducts worship services but also has special events, including comedy nights and cyber open-mic nights.

Another virtual reality church is Churchhome Global run by Judah and Chelsea Smith. Members on their site can pray for fellow members by pressing their thumbs against prayer emojis. Small groups are also associated with the Churchhome Global site.

All of this is intended to attract unchurched people, which is a fast-growing percentage of the American population. We would suggest that using a virtual church enables people to stay uninvolved. Lauren Hunter, who is the founder of ChurchTechToday, said: “In parts of the country, people are expected to attend Wednesday, Sunday morning and Sunday evening services. That’s a lot of commitment.” That is exactly right. Personal contact with other believers, having communion, getting involved in the struggles of brothers and sisters is all a part of the Church that Jesus established. Many people don’t want that kind of commitment.

If you want to feel like you are “going to church” and not have to be involved in the Lord’s work, virtual reality church is a great idea. We would suggest that it misses the whole point of what the Church is supposed to be about and what the Church is. Technology can help us communicate and can facilitate teaching, but it cannot be a substitute for meeting together as a body as the first century Church did. Read Acts 2:41-47.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: USA Today, May 7, 2019, page B:1-2.

Greenland Stromatolites and Faux Fossils

 Greenland Stromatolites are Faux Fossils but this one is real.An old joke which showed up periodically during my college graduate work said, “Be sure your data conforms to your conclusions.” Because grants and scholarships depended on having success in your scientific research, it was tempting to cherry-pick data to support whatever you were claiming about your topic. That problem is still with us, and it has shown its head in reports of Greenland stromatolites.

Stromatolites are fossil deposits made by algae. (The picture shows a stromatolite fossil.) We see them not only in some shallow marine environments today, but we also find them in some of the oldest rocks on Earth. The Gunflint Chert along Lake Superior in Ontario contains some of the earliest stromatolites, but the rocks in Greenland are even older. Because many theories of the development of life on Earth depend upon finding marine life forms in Earth’s oldest rocks, there have been several premature news reports of Greenland stromatolites.

Abigail Allwood is recognized as an expert on stromatolites and has studied the oldest known stromatolites in Australia. She went to Greenland to examine the Greenland stromatolites. She concludes that they are not fossils, but only rocks that have experienced a great deal of tectonic activity. Ms. Allwood collected rocks just a few feet from the claimed stromatolites and found significant evidence of diastrophism, a type of plate tectonics which deforms Earth’s crust. She found no evidence of real fossils.

Naturally, the authors of the original paper on the Greenland stromatolites disagree with Allwood, but that is the way science works. Scientific testing answers the questions of authenticity and eventually reveals the truth. Unfortunately, false religious theories are frequently untestable and stay in existence for a very long time.

In science and faith, we should follow the evidence wherever it leads. It appears that in the case of the Greenland stromatolites, we have faux fossils and not the real thing.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Reference: Discover Magazine, June 2019, page 10.

Christian Symbols Unconstitutional?

Christian Symbols Unconstitutional?Herman Streitburger is a Vermont resident who was held captive in a German prisoner of war camp during World War II. He donated a Bible to the Manchester VA Medical Center for use on a POW/MIA remembrance table. An atheist group filed a lawsuit demanding the removal of the Bible from the memorial saying the Bible’s presence was unconstitutional and “an outrage.” Are all Christian symbols unconstitutional?

A spokesman for the atheist group said that “the presence of the Bible in the memorial amounted to raising one faith over all the others.” He went on to say that the presence of the Bible was “a repugnant example of fundamentalist Christian triumphalism, exceptionalism, superiority, and domination.”

An organization called First Liberty Institute is representing the veteran’s group that created the memorial. They said: “Since the Vietnam War, our nation has maintained the sacred tradition of setting a separate table in countless Department of Defense and VA facilities to honor POW/MIAs. The table is decorated with several items, each carrying symbolic meaning used to help remember those who were captured or declared missing.”

First Liberty Institute has vowed to fight to allow POW/MIA displays to remember those killed, captured or missing with a display of their choosing. The Manchester VA Medical Center initially caved in to the atheist complaint and removed the Bible. Then it recently put the Bible back because of a letter from FLI and an outpouring of support.

If courts find all Christian symbols unconstitutional and require that they must be removed from anything having to do with the military or the government, then as one local atheist has said, “We need to remove every cross from every military graveyard in the world, beginning with Arlington.”

It seems likely that atheists will continue to attempt to remove any Christian symbols or artifacts that suggest Christianity from every cemetery and building that is supported by taxes. Christians must be aware and vocal about what happens to the graves of our loved ones who died in military service to America.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Properties of Light

Properties of LightWhen you open your eyes in the morning, take a minute to thank God that you can see. We should reflect upon how good it is to have light instead of the darkness of night. The properties of light make it unique and special.

I am keenly aware of my gift of sight because of a long association with Glynn Langston, who is blind and manages our outreach to the visually impaired. In my lectures, I frequently refer to Edwin Abbott’s book Flatland to help people understand dimensions and how the spiritual is different from the physical. Glynn was born blind, so he is unable to visualize the concept of a sphere crossing a plane and leaving the outline of a circle. He has been kind about it, but my wife once said to me, “How do you expect a blind man to visualize anything!” Even those of us who can see have trouble understanding the properties of light beyond what meets the eye. Radio waves, gamma rays, X-rays, ultraviolet rays, and infra-red rays are all light!

The properties of light make it difficult to comprehend. The most general definition of light is that it is the energy released when a charge changes momentum. The bundle of energy released is called a photon, and the amount of change in momentum determines the energy of the released light. Even in the visible spectrum for humans, the different colors we see are determined by how much energy the light has. Violet has much more energy than red. Ultraviolet has more energy than violet. X-rays and gamma rays have even more energy, but they are still light. Infrared, and radio waves have lower energies than red. That is why infrared warms you and ultraviolet gives you a sunburn. It is also why radio waves can pass through the walls of your home without causing damage and gamma rays can also pass through things, but they will do significant damage.

In the creation process, there had to be special accommodations for the properties of light coming to Earth from the Sun and from outer space. The ozone layer had to be in place to absorb ultraviolet and avoid damage to life. The eyes of every living thing that uses some form of sight had to be designed to function in the part of the spectrum that fit its diet. Rattlesnakes, for example, have specialized sight organs to see in the infrared. Because they eat rodents whose bodies give off radiation in the infrared, a rattlesnake can see its prey on the darkest night. Nearly every insect sees some part of the spectrum other than the colors visible to humans. That is how a mosquito finds you and how insects navigate at night.

Not every star in the sky gives off the properties of light that are needed for life to exist. Some stars radiate in the X-ray part of the spectrum, and others radiate energies too low to be useful to life. Even our trees and shrubs require light in the green part of the visible spectrum to know when to shed their leaves in preparation for winter. In Job 38-41, God spoke to Job to show His wisdom and design and convince Job of his ignorance. Many of the designs God pointed to are connected to light. “Where is the way where light dwells, and where is the location of darkness?” (38:19) “By what process is light parted which scatters the east wind upon the earth?” (38:24) “How does the eagle seek the prey and see that which is afar off?” (39:29)

The Bible speaks of light that is not produced by the acceleration of an electric charge. The most important of these is described in Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world … let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Let those of us who are Christians not only be amazed by God’s design of the properties of light and the world in which we live, but let us also strive to be the light Jesus calls us to be.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Why Such a Large Universe? – Viewing Cosmological History

? - Viewing Cosmological HistoryWe have received some questions from readers who are perplexed by the fact that we frequently refer to a discovery or an event in outer space, millions of light-years from Earth. We have also mentioned NASA’s daily blog (apod.nasa.gov) showing gorgeous views of deep space objects many light-years away. Why such a large universe, and what does that mean to us?

It all comes down to viewing cosmological history. When we look through a telescope, we are looking at the past. If the next closest star exploded, it would be over four years before we would see it. You can see the light from the nearest major galaxy called the Andromeda, with your naked eye. It is two-million light years away, which means the light from that galaxy left there two million years ago. When we look at the sky, we are viewing cosmological history. Even the light from the Sun left there eight minutes ago. The question boils down to, Why such a large universe? Why did God create so much? It may seem presumptuous even to discuss that question. We would not attempt to speak for God who obviously can do whatever He wants to do. Nevertheless, there are some observations we can make.

First, it would be foolish to question whether the cosmos really is that large. There are a dozen different methods of measuring the distance to an object in space, and they all agree even though they are based on very different assumptions. The Doppler shift is very different from interstellar reddening which is different from cepheid variable measurements, but they all give the same answer for distances in space.

Some creationists suggest that God created the light that appears to be from a distant galaxy or star, already reaching Earth some 6000 years ago. In other words, what we see today when we look at the stars is essentially a video of something that never happened. We think we are viewing cosmological history, but we are being fooled. First of all, this explanation was invented to defend a denominational teaching that is not biblical. The Bible does not give the age of the cosmos or the Earth. No human calculation based on interpreting the Hebrew words in the Bible can stand up under examination.

However, the main problem with saying that God is trying to fool us is that such an explanation degrades God. From Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22 the Bible repeats over and over that God is Truth. God does not lie, He does not mislead, and He does not misrepresent. James 1:13 says it well: “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God, for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither does He tempt any man.” Faking an event in space that never happened so that humans could be fooled by it, would certainly be a deliberate effort to tempt honest, seeking humans into believing something that is wrong.

So why such a large universe? Why are we able to view the cosmological history of stars forming and dying? Why do we see billions of other galaxies beyond our Milky Way Galaxy? There may be multiple reasons known only to God. The ancient psalmist stated it well: “The Heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork” (Psalms 19:1). The writer of Proverbs in chapter 8 has wisdom saying: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the Earth ever was…” (verse22-23). These statements and many more like them are not just expressions of ancient people. Here we are more than 2,000 years after Christ, and we are still trying to understand what electric charge is and what causes gravity. Moses couldn’t even see most of what modern science is investigating.

I would suggest that God structured the massive size of the cosmos and gave us the ability to watch matter being altered to produce stars and new planets so we could see His power and wisdom. Romans 1:20 rings true as we admire the work of scientists who help us understand that “the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made….” Asking why such a large universe leads us to say, “I will praise you, Lord, for I (and the cosmos) am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works” (Psalms 139:14).
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Fine-tuning of the Cosmos

Fine-tuning of the Cosmos in Introduction to Intelligent Design
Scientific articles mention the fine-tuning of the cosmos with increasing frequency. The basic concept is that the conditions of the universe are precisely set for human life.

The variables that affect the presence and sustainability of life are so precise that even slight variations would result in an inhospitable world. In his new book, Introduction to Intelligent Design, Dr. Timothy Gordon explains the concept very well by giving three examples of the fine-tuning of the cosmos.

“1. If the force of gravity were slightly larger, stars would be too hot and burn too rapidly making conditions for life inhospitable. If too small, no heavy elements would be produced.
2. The initial expansion of the Big Bang had to be fine-tuned to a precision of 1 in 10^55 to form planets, stars, solar systems, and galaxies.
3. There are 19 universal constants that must be perfectly tuned to make the universe habitable.
Assigning a probability to the fine-tuning of these constants would be larger than the number of elementary particles in the universe.” (page 43).

You will see many secular writers talking about the fine-tuning of the cosmos without explaining how this fine-tuning would come about without intelligence to do the tuning. This is another powerful argument for the existence of God as the creator.

We recommend Dr. Gordon’s book Introduction to Intelligent Design (ISBN: 9781095462645). It is formatted for Sunday-school and small group study and is available in paperback and Kindle editions.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Cat Tongues and Papillae

Cat Tongues and PapillaeAlexis Noel and David Hu have been researching cat tongues as reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (December 2018). Using 3-D scanning with micro-computed tomography, they have discovered some interesting things.

The backward facing barbs (papillae) on cat tongues are not cones as had been previously thought. They are actually hollow structures similar to scoops for dipping ice cream. They have a U-shaped cavity that holds fluids extremely well. This shape enables cats to use the force of surface tension to pull up water as they lap it. It also allows them to wick saliva deep into their fur. When cats lick themselves, saliva is distributed all the way down to the roots of the hairs. Cats don’t have sweat glands except on their paws, so the distribution of saliva removes heat from their skin.

The papillae also allow cats to lick up oils and other contaminants on their fur. This not only keeps the cat clean, but it avoids odors. Applying this discovery may open the door to a whole new line of materials for use in home and industry. Dr. Noel gives one word of warning. Don’t let your cat lick a microfiber blanket, because the cat’s tongue will stick to the blanket!

Cat tongues are not like sandpaper but rather like Velcro. Velcro was discovered by scientists watching other examples in the natural world. Humans have copied the design of materials found in living organisms to create many of the substances we take for granted. We see God’s creative genius everywhere we look. “We can know there is a God through the things He has made” (Romans 1:19-20).
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Joy of Motherhood

Joy of MotherhoodI would like to be a mother. I can’t imagine the joy of motherhood bringing a new life into the world, nurturing that child and watching her or him grow into a productive adult. I want to be a mother very badly, but I don’t have the equipment to do that.

Yesterday we talked about how atheists and feminists try to vilify Christ and Christianity by suggesting that the Bible treats women as second-class citizens. However, Christ and His apostles treated women as equals. (See John 4 and Galatians 3:26-29.) The passage the atheists point out is 1 Timothy 2:9-15. That passage tells us that women can be saved in childbirth. In other words that role is so important that being a mother can be an opportunity to fulfill an incredible role that God has made available. Women don’t have to accept that role, but it is available. No matter how badly I want to be a mother, it simply isn’t possible.

A woman can accept the role of being a mother, but men have no way to choose that role. In the spiritual realm, God has given men a role. Just like the baseball team, having the male lead the family spiritually doesn’t diminish the value of a woman any more than being a first baseman diminishes the value of a catcher. A woman’s worth is not diminished by allowing her husband to fulfill his role as a leader in worship.

Unfortunately, most men are not up to fulfilling the role of being the spiritual leader of the family. Frequently women have to step in and help when the male refuses or is unable to fill the role. A first baseman can fill in for a catcher, but that is certainly not the way the roles are assigned or work their best.

Read Proverbs 31:10-31, Acts 16:14-15, 40, Acts 21:8-9 and Acts 2:17-18. Look at Ephesians 5:25-28 and consider God’s plan for both men and women. Christianity has elevated women and provided a basis for gender equality. Equality does not mean sameness, and we should thank God for the special design He has built into men and women to allow them to have meaningful roles producing happy and fulfilling lives – including the joy of motherhood.
— John N. Clayton © 2019

Women and Motherhood

Women and MotherhoodTomorrow is “Mother’s Day,” and we have some thoughts on women and motherhood.

We are seeing a new aggressiveness on the part of atheists and feminists to vilify Christ and Christianity. Feminists take passages like 1 Timothy 2:9-15 to suggest that Christians make women second class citizens. Atheist speakers like Richard Dawkins attack the Bible saying it is one of the most misogynistic (hating women) books ever written. The truth is that Jesus and the teachings of the Apostles were centuries ahead of the secular world in treating and presenting women as equal to men in every way.

It is essential to look at the example that Jesus set in his interactions with women, such as the Samaritan woman in John 4. There was great animosity between the Jewish culture and the Samaritans. John 4:9 reminds us of this when Jesus speaks to the woman, and she responds, “How is it that you, being a Jew, ask me a Samaritan woman for a drink of water?” She is both a hated Samaritan and a woman who in that misogynistic culture was indeed a second class citizen. The passage even adds, “for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” When the disciples of Jesus show up in verse 27 “they marveled that He talked with the woman.” Jesus not only talks with her, but He stays in the Samaritan city for two days.

Jesus treated women as equals, and they worked with Him in His ministry. (See Luke 8:1-4.) The Apostles taught that men and women were equals. Galatians 3:26-29 tells the Christians of their day and ours, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither bond nor free, there can be neither male nor female for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The passage in 1 Timothy 2:9-15 has to do with roles. We need to understand that equality does not mean sameness. As an example, is everyone on a baseball team equal? The answer to that question is undoubtedly “Yes, they are equal.” The catcher has a different role than the pitcher, and the first baseman is different from either of them. They are all essential and equal. They have different roles and even different equipment, but all of them are critical to the success of the team.

As we have said before, there are no second-class citizens in the Church. We are all one in Christ Jesus. I will have more to say about women and motherhood tomorrow on Mother’s Day.
— John N. Clayton © 2019